Could mindfulness practice reduce cravings and increase abstinence among cigarette smokers?

A recent study in PLOS One documents differences between smokers and non-smokers on measures of mindfulness and subjective well-being.

Participants in the study included 97 smokers and 84 non-smokers residing in Brazil; chi-square analysis determined no differences between the two groups other than smoking status.

In addition to the collection of socio-demographic data, a self-report questionnaire, the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence, was used to assess nicotine dependence. Mindfulness was evaluated via the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ-BR), a 39-item assessment addressing non-judging, acting with awareness, observing, describing, and non-reactivity to inner experience. The Subjective Well-Being Scale assessed positive and negative levels of affect, in addition to life satisfaction.

Results found that among smoker participants, 36.1% scored low on nicotine dependence, while 64% scored high; no gender difference was found.  No significance was found on degree of mindfulness or subjective well-being (SWB) based on level of nicotine dependence.

For non-smokers, higher scores were noted on each measure of SWB, while significantly higher scores were found on three measures of mindfulness: total score, observing, and non-reactivity; again, no gender difference was noted.

In comparing smokers with non-smokers, smokers demonstrated significantly lower levels of life satisfaction, positive affect, and general SWB. Negative Affect scores, or transitory displeasing engagement and distressing emotions, were higher in smokers and scores differed significantly between smokers and non-smokers.

Additionally, lower levels of positive affect and higher levels of negative affect were found in female smokers when compared to male smokers and the non-smoker group; these findings suggest there is room to target interventions based on gender; in general, lead author Víviam Vargas Barros and colleagues“propose that Mindfulness-based Interventions (MBI) may help smokers to deal with the treatment and abstinence by increasing their level of Subjective Well-Being.”